Posted by Linda Gelda
On Sunday, December 14, I planned to take my 87-year-old mother-in-law to the JF&CS Friendly Visitor Chanukkah Celebration. I took her two years ago, but she had no memory of this. Over the past few years her health, cognition, and memory have been steadily declining. She has also been increasingly depressed of late.
In fact, when I went to pick her up she told me, “Why bother going? I don’t want to go out, just let me go, I’m done, don’t bother with me.”
I insisted, and we went.
Lo and behold, as we walked into the festively decorated room for the 9th annual celebration organized by Sue Spielman, a Jewish Healing Connections (JHC) staff member, my mother-in-law noticed Barbara Sternfield, another JHC staff person, who used to lead Shabbat services at her assisted living facility, and she tentatively brightened up.
When the ceremonies began and the candles were lit by Marjie Sokoll and the young children in attendance, my mother-in-law started humming and then singing along with the blessings and Chanukkah songs. When the delicious homemade latkes came out, at first she said, “I’m not hungry,” but soon ate a few with gusto.
Then there was the very professional performance of Broadway show tunes sung by Cantor Geoffrey Fine. She sat and hummed at first, then began singing, sometimes a bit loud for my taste (and maybe others), but I appreciated that she came back to life! It was a remarkable transformation. She sat back, was smiling, and totally brightened up. The Broadway songs kept coming and she kept singing, telling me about the shows she went to with her father as a child growing up in Brooklyn. She regained a sense of herself, of her family, and of her roots.
At the end of the Chanukkah celebration, we were walking out and she learned that every elder was to receive a bag filled with gifts donated by CJP Women’s Philanthropy and Temple Beth Avodah. My mother-in-law was excited and surprised and all the way home she said, “Can you believe they gave me a gift!”
The Chanukkah celebration transformed her day - it gave her a sense of connection to herself, to her history, and to her Jewish roots all within the context of the Jewish community of elders and dedicated JF&CS staff and volunteers.
I felt proud to be a member of the Jewish Healing Connections Advisory Council and it dawned on me that my mother-in-law and I experienced its mission firsthand. What a pleasure!
The annual Friendly Visitor Chanukkah Celebration is made possible through the generosity of the George and Beatrice Sherman Family Charitable Trust.
Linda Gelda has been an active member of the Jewish Healing Connections Advisory Council for many years and is a psychotherapist who practices in Newton.